Donald Palumbo was born in Rochester, N.Y., and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University. At the Dallas Opera in the 1980s, he served as the assistant to Roberto Benaglio, the renowned chorus master of La Scala, and also worked closely with conductor Nicola Rescigno.
Palumbo is the chorus master of the Metropolitan Opera, responsible for the chorus’s preparation and performance in upwards of 25 productions each season. This appointment followed a 16 year tenure as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Palumbo was the music director of the Chorus Pro Musica of Boston and has also served as chorus master for the Canadian Opera Company, the Dallas Opera, the Banff School for the Arts Summer Opera Program, the Opera Company of Boston, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. In Europe, Palumbo has held the position of chorus master at the Opéra de Lyon, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. He has worked extensively at the Théatre du Châtelet in Paris and has conducted the Radio France Chorus in several a cappella choral concerts. From 1999 to 2001, Palumbo was the chorus director of the Salzburg Festival, the first American to hold that position. During his three year tenure in Salzburg, he prepared the chorus of the Wiener Konzertvereinigung in performances of Doktor Faust, Don Carlo, Les Troyens, Iphigénie en Tauride, Tristan und Isolde, Jenufa, Falstaff, and Die Zauberflöte, among others. In addition, he prepared the chorus for performances of the Schumann Requiem with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. In 2003, he was the chorus master for the production of Berlioz’s Les Troyens in Paris under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
Since 2014, Palumbo has been a vocal coach for the apprentices of the Santa Fe Opera and has worked with the young artists at the Glimmerglass Festival since 2016. In 2016, Palumbo joined the Vocal Arts faculty at Juilliard.